Ensia

Taking the pressure off desalination

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Courtesy of Ensia

California-based PAX Pure hopes to offer a new solution to water scarcity with its groundbreaking water purification tool. Developed by Jay Harman and Tom Gielda, PAX Pure technology desalinates and demineralizes water without membranes, moving parts or chemicals. Instead, the technology simply mimics high-altitude conditions.

The big challenge with conventional desalination and demineralization is the energy needed to separate the impurities from the water by boiling. However, PAX Pure boils water at lower temperatures by mimicking low atmospheric pressures. By increasing the velocity of water to create an area of low pressure, PAX Pure systems achieve optimal operation at the low boiling point of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The process is not only cheaper and more efficient than conventional desalination, it can run on energy from the sun or waste heat from industrial manufacturing.

PAX Pure was recently named co-winner of the SXSW Eco Greentech competition, a contest for start-up technologies that fulfill market demand while reducing environmental impacts. While PAX Pure technology could be applied to agriculture, marine desalination, food and beverage manufacturing, and more, founder and CEO Philip O’Connor sees greatest potential in the hydraulic fracturing industry.

Water transportation can account for 60 to 80 percent of total fracking costs due to the fact that many U.S. fracking sites are located in water-stressed regions. Onsite demineralization of water would allow fracking companies to reuse their wastewater. “Pax Pure is looking to treat water during hydraulic fracturing at well sites for reduced trucking miles in the transport of water,” O’Connor says. This onsite approach to the demineralization of wastewater could significantly “clean up” the fracking industry.

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